EU "not asking Serbia to impose sanctions"
Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, said on Tuesday he had not asked Serbia to impose sanctions against Russia.Source: Tanjug
Hahn, quoted last week as calling on Serbia to support EU's sanctions against Russia, also said on Tuesday that this issue was not connected to the opening of chapters in the country's accession negotiations.
I have not asked from Serbia to join the European sanctions against Russia, Hahn told reporters after a meeting with Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić in Brussels.
The commissioner said that Serbia's foreign policy was one of the topics of the talks with Dačić on Tuesday, but stressed that such decisions are a sovereign matter of the Serbian government.
The sanctions and the opening of chapters in the negotiating process are in no way connected, Hahn said and expressed expectation that the first chapters will be opened in foreseeable future.
Dačić confirmed at a press conference that there is no explicit request to impose sanctions against Russia, although Brussels expects Serbia to align its foreign policy with that of the EU before it is granted the full-fledged membership.
"We hope that we will open Chapter 32 relating to financial control very soon," Dačić said, adding that almost all EU members support this.
However, Germany insists on opening Chapter 35 on Kosovo and Metohija first, and also Chapters 23 and 24 of the rule of law, Dačić underlined.
This has nothing to do with sanctions against Russia, Dačić said.
Asked to explain the recent joint military exercise of Russia and Serbia in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, Dačić said that Serbia is a neutral country which cooperates and stages military exercises with the Russian, as well as the U.S. and many other armies.
"Some would seek an explanation even if a Russian choir came to sing in Serbia," the minister observed.
Dačić stressed that "Serbia's relations with Moscow are being abused," and added:
"These are double standards and I am not an advocate of this being allowed for Berlin, Paris, Rome and others, but not for one small Serbia," he said, the Beta news agency reported.
Hahn stressed that some EU member countries are also neutral and that this is nothing unusual or a precedent, and added that every country has its own history and particular relations, and that this is why the EU membership negotiations take time.
He noted that his homeland, Austria, is "also a neutral country."
Dačić and Hahn stated after Tuesday's meeting in Brussels that they look forward to continuing the talks during Hahn's visit to Belgrade on Thursday.
Dačić attended on Tuesday a meeting of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and had a separate meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.